Things sure change quickly at Manchester United these days.
After the Red Devils appeared to level off after an up-and down start to the season, going 6-1-1 in December following an embarrassing Europa League loss to Kazakhstan’s FC Astana, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side is now winless through its first two games of 2020.
In Saturday’s scoreless FA Cup third round match at Wolverhampton Wanderers, United didn’t even manage a single shot on goal. This latest setback comes just three days after Solskjaer and Co. dropped a 2-0 decision against longtime Premier League rival Arsenal, setting up a replay with Wolves at Old Trafford that neither team wanted to add to their already jam-packed schedules.
Not surprisingly, both the United manger and his Wolves counterpart, Nuno Espirito Santo, rested a number of Prem regulars for the Cup tie at the Molineux. It showed. While both young hodgepodge squads were clearly eager to impress, the lack of first-team quality from either was apparent throughout the contest.
While the protagonists combined for more than 20 shots in all, they only managed two on-frame efforts between them. Both came from the hosts, with visiting keeper Sergio Romero — who filled in for starting backstop David de Gea — stopped each of them, one in spectacular fashion:
Man United was denied a penalty in the first half, and Wolves and United both squandered golden opportunities to steal a win late on. The visitors’ Marcus Rashford had perhaps the best chance of all shortly after entering as a second-half substitute, but his shot was defected onto the crossbar by Conor Coady in the 70th-minute:
It looked like Wolverhampton had found the winner through winger Matt Doherty with a quarter-hour remaining. Doherty’s powerful header beat Romero, but referee Paul Tierney immediately waved it off after spotting an infraction. Replays confirmed that the ball had hit Doherty’s arm before entering the goal.
Man City rolls over fourth-tier Port Vale
It looked for a moment like Manchester City might suffer the same fate as its hated crosstown rival when Port vale striker Tom Pope — who was itching for a chance to go up against City’s England national team center back John Stones — cancelled out Oleksandr Zinchenko’s opener 10 minutes before halftime.
But in front of their home crowd at City of Manchester Stadium, Sergio Aguero restored the hosts’ lead just before the break. The defending Premier League champs would add two more goals in the second half to run out convincing 4-1 winners.
Lower division Fulham, Sheffield Wednesday stun Premier League foes
A huge part of the appeal of the sport’s oldest competition is that it gives the Davids the chance to topple the Goliaths. With Prem teams prioritizing league matches — especially following the relentless festive season dockets — those sorts of upsets can and do happen on a regular basis.
Saturday was no different. Second tier reps Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham both did the business over their top-flight foes, beating Brighton and Aston Villa respectively, with the Cottagers game-winning goal coming after they had conceded a second-half equalizer.
It was also a rough day for Newcastle which, like Man United, now faces the prospect of a replay after settling for a 1-1 draw at third-tier Rochdale, whose all-important equalizer was scored by 40-year forward Aaron Wilbraham.